Christmas Crackers (11)

More Christmas cracker jokes for your delectation:

I wish I could afford Rudolph and Blitzen decorations for my tree this year.

Alas, they’re two deer.

What did the Kremlin send MI6 in their Christmas hamper?

A mince spy.

What happened when Santa got stuck in the chimney?

He had an attack of Claustrophobia.

What did the drunk snowman say to the carrot?

‘Get out of my face!’

What does Santa do when his elves misbehave?

He gives them the sack

How did Scrooge win the football match?

The ghost of Christmas passed

Why did Santa put a clock in his sleigh?

He wanted to see time fly!

What happens if you eat Christmas decorations?

You get tinsel-it is.

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Gladys who?
Gladys Christmas. How about you?

Knock, knock
Who’s there?
Honda who?
Honda first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

Christmas Crackers (10)

If you have not had enough Christmas cracker jokes today, here are some more:

What happened to the man who stole an Advent calendar? He got 25 days

Why do Santa’s little helpers require no training? They are elf-taught

Why are Santa’s reindeer usually drenched with water? They are rain-deer

Why will a Christmas tree never win Great British Sewing Bee? Because it always drops its needles.

What do you get if you cross a snowman with a mosquito? Frostbite

What is the best gift you can give a child at Christmas? A broken drum. You can’t beat it

What is the first thing an elf learns at school? The elf-abet

Which of Santa’s reindeers is always sneaking off to a club? Dancer

What are Spanish Christmas sweaters made of? Fleece Navidad

How did Mary and Joseph know that baby Jesus weighed 7lb 6oz? They had a weigh in a manger

Festive greetings to you all.

Christmas Crackers (9)

To get you into the festive mood, here are some jokes with a topical twist.

Why are people cutting back on Brussels sprouts this year? The cost of gas is too high

Why can Netflix afford calamari this year? They’re Squids in

Which vaccine did Father Christmas get? Mince Pfizer

Why did Rudolph’s nose have to self-isolate? It failed a lateral glow test

Which vaccine did the Three Wise Men have? The Wiser jab

Why does it take so long to play a game of Scrabble with Boris Johnson? He keeps going back on his word

Why will Keir Starmer be sad on Christmas morning? He will still have no presence

What pantomime are the government performing this year? Chris Whittington

How do you know the December heating bill is too high this year? We can’t even open the Advent calendar windows

Festive greetings to you all.

The Cheltenham Square Murder

A review of The Cheltenham Square Murder by John Bude

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a fictional police detective goes on holiday, murder will seek him out. Even if you seek solace in a genteel square in Cheltenham, the grim reaper will call you into action. This is what happens to Inspector Meredith in John Bude’s entertaining The Cheltenham Square Murder, originally published in 1937 and now reissued as part of the British Library Crime Classics series.

Bude has a fine sense of place and geography, helped immeasurably from having lived in the spa town for a while. The square seems to be the epitome of middle-class tranquillity, stocked by characters such a doctor by the name of Pratt, three spinsters, the formidable Miss Boon and sisters, Nancy and Emmeline Watt, a vicar and his sister, a retired stockbroker, Edward Buller, and the raffish Captain Cotton. And then there is Arthur West who leads the campaign for a tree in the square to be cut down, a controversial move. Misfortune dogs him; his wife, who has been seduced by Cotton, leaves him and he plunges into such a financial mess that he is forced to sell up and move into cheaper accommodation. There are rumours that Buller had swindled him.

The tranquil calm of the square is shattered when Captain Cotton, enjoying a post prandial drink in Buller’s house, is shot through the back of the head with a barbed arrow. An unusual way to kill a victim for sure, until you realise that several of the residents, including West, are keen toxophilites, including West. The arrow appears to have been fired from West’s empty house, to which only he and the estate agent have the key, and a feat only possible since the felling of the tree. Buller, too, is murdered, again with a barbed arrow, and as the two residents against whom West had a grievance have been murdered, he is the obvious suspect.

The local police in the shape of Inspector Long are called in to investigate but as Meredith is staying adjacent to the murder scene he is invited to help, an invitation he readily accepts. Meredith is a strange sleuth. He misses two fairly obvious avenues of enquiry – whether the first murder was a case of mistaken identity and whether the second murder was actually committed in the way that it seemed at first blush. Had he twigged either or both, then the inquiry and the book would have been shortened considerably. On the other hand, he seems to have amazing flashes of insight brought on by the most trivial of clues.

Naturally, the case is not as straightforward as first appears. Along the way to resolving the mystery Meredith uncovers gambling debts, a clock that has been tampered with – always essential for establishing what seems a watertight alibi – and a penchant among some of the residents for scrambling across roofs and climbing in and out of skylights at night. Both the whodunit and whydunit elements are well done, although I am not sure Bude plays entirely fairly with his reader.

Albeit stereotypical, Bude’s characterisation is strong, and his narrative style and plotting drives the book along, even if the method by which the murders are committed seems contrived. What I like about Bude, though, is that he does not take things too seriously, happy to inject some humour to leaven the heavy police procedural aspects. I loved the two spinster sisters discussing what the correct social etiquette was when involved in a murder investigation, an image that encapsulates murder coming to middle England to a T.

Lonesome Road

A review of Lonesome Road by Patricia Wentworth

Originally published in 1939, this is the third outing of Wentworth’s amateur sleuth and fiendish knitter, Miss Silver. I have been a bit sniffy about Camberley’s finest in the past, but this was quite a good story. Patricia Wentworth is an excellent storyteller, and the plot was almost believable.

Unlike the previous two Miss Silver books I have read, the sleuth appears from the start and is almost Holmesian, receiving a client in her quarters, knitting needles flying, desperate for her assistance.

Rachel Treherne is convinced that someone is trying to kill her. She has been saddled with an enormous responsibility, her father bequeathing her control over the family’s fortunes and requiring her, at the start of each year, to rewrite her will, ostensibly to keep the family members on their toes. And there are a lot of family members, who spend an inordinate amount of time at the family home, airing their sense of grievance.

Rachel’s elder sister, Mabel Wadlow, is particularly aggrieved that she has not had her share of the family’s money and is forever, with her husband, Ernest, badgering Rachel for money, some of which is to stop son Maurice from going off to Russia and some to set up daughter, Cherry, a frivolous young thing. Cosmo, who has eyes for Rachel, and Ella, a do-gooder extraordinaire, are also on the hunt for cash. Even the cousins to whom Rachel is most attracted and hopes that they marry, Richard and Caroline, are not immune from the family affliction. They all have reason enough to want her demise in order to get their hands on what theu believe to be their rightful inheritance.

The series of mishaps that prompt Rachel to seek assistance seem fairly mundane, anonymous letters, a highly polished step, a curtain that catches on fire, but the sense of danger increases once Miss Silver arrives. Adders are found in Rachel’s bed and then she is pushed over the edge of a coastal path, the lonesome road, only to be saved at the last minute by Gale Brandon.

Brandon, or is it Brent, is the most interesting character in the book. It would not be a Wentworth story if there was not some love interest, and the rough-hewn American is clearly in love with Rachel. There is a backstory though, Rachel’s father and Gale’s father having been in business together. Brent/Brandon senior fell out with Wadlow, just before the latter struck oil and made his fortune. Does Gale have an ulterior motive for getting close to Rachel? Did he push Rachel over the cliff and only rescued her because someone else was approaching?

Wentworth handles this aspect of the story well. There is much about Gale to make the reader suspicious, but equally he seems a nice guy. The ambiguity around his character and his motives is sustained right until the very end of the story.

Despite her unwillingness to believe that any member of her extended family could wish her ill and her devotion to her maid, Miss Silver succeeds in opening Rachel’s eyes as to how the land really lies. By the standards of many of her contemporaries writing murder mysteries, Wentworth’s plot is rather simple and unconvoluted. Sometimes it is pleasurable to read a well-written piece of entertainment without requiring the little grey cells to whirl around in ever decreasing circles. It might even be the perfect antidote to a family Christmas!